Socialist Worker

Austerity fuels protests in Europe

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2313


Stock markets plummeted this week as the economic crisis deepened across Europe.

European rulers fear that Spain and Italy could be heading for bailouts—and that Greece could leave the eurozone.

The growing crisis puts Germany, Europe’s strongest economy, at risk. But the meltdown is also sparking mass resistance.

More than a million people took to the streets across Spain on Thursday of last week against cuts and attacks on workers’ rights. Protests took place in more than 80 cities.

Demonstrators sang songs and chanted against the prime minister Mariano Rajoy. One popular chant was “Mariano—you won’t last the summer.”

Some 300,000 gathered in Barcelona, where firefighters blocked roads to keep riot police away from the demonstration.

In the capital Madrid, unions said 800,000 people protested. These were bigger demonstrations than those that accompanied a general strike in March.

And they have brought together the official trade union movement with the movement of “Indignados” protestors who occupied city squares on 15 May last year.

Bailout

The mobilisations are a response to the government's announcement of £50 billion worth of cuts in return for a £78 billion EU bank bailout of Spanish banks.

The terms of the loan require Spain’s government to cut its budget deficit drastically. Rajoy claims the bailouts and cuts will solve the crisis. But instead it has continued to deepen.

Shares in Spanish banks and firms fell amid speculation that the country will apply for a general bailout.

Government bond yields—the interest it has to pay to borrow money—rose to a new high of 7.52 percent. And two regional governments applied for aid from the central government.

Meanwhile in Greece, public sector workers struck on Tuesday of this week for the first time since the recent elections.

They face a massive cut to their retirement payments after their pension funds were hit by the “haircut” to Greek government debt earlier this year.

Greek pension funds own some of these debts. Their value has been slashed by more than 50 percent.

Ministers competed to find cuts of £9 billion before officials from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund visit on Tuesday of this week.

The government is still trying to break a steel workers’ strike that has been going on for more than 270 days. The strike has become a symbol of the fightback in Greece.

Riot police were sent in last week to break picket lines and take control of the factory gates. But most production workers have continued to strike and supporters took part in a solidarity demonstration on Monday of this week.


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